Break Up the Big Tech Giants—the People Want It!

In today’s divided America, it’s rare to find an issue with wide bipartisan support. But when it comes to breaking up the “Big Tech” companies—Facebook, Amazon, Apple, and Google—the data is crystal clear.Everyone from California Democrats to Iowa Republicans want to pass two historic antitrust bills to rein in their monopoly power.Last fall, whistleblower Frances…

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In today’s divided America, it’s rare to find an issue with wide bipartisan support. But when it comes to breaking up the “Big Tech” companies—Facebook, Amazon, Apple, and Google—the data is crystal clear.

Everyone from California Democrats to Iowa Republicans want to pass two historic antitrust bills to rein in their monopoly power.

Last fall, whistleblower Frances Haugen proved that Facebook is aware of the harm it causes to users’ mental health. But the ills of social media only scratch the surface of Big Tech’s harmful impact. Decades of lax antitrust enforcement has allowed these companies to accumulate economic and cultural power rivaling that of some countries. The result? An environment where Big Tech can crush competitors, self-preference their own products while screwing over small businesses, and tear away the last vestiges of consumer privacy.

The first of the two bipartisan antitrust bills, the American Innovation and Choice Online Act (AICO), would stop Big Tech from writing the same self-serving rules it has used to maintain its dominance. Described as “The Senate Bill That Has Big Tech Scared,” the bill would hinder Big Tech companies’ ability to leverage their control of online spaces (think Amazon’s marketplace or Google’s search engine) to unfairly boost the company’s other products. The more targeted Open App Markets Act (OAMA) serves to prevent Apple and Google’s app marketplace “duopoly” from giving their own apps an unfair leg-up over their competitors.

At a glance, the issues these bills address may seem abstract compared to topics like disinformation and content moderation. However, it must be remembered that Big Tech companies are only able to harm their users with impunity because of their near-unchallengeable economic power. As noted by activist Evan Greer, stopping Big Tech from “leveraging non-public data to give their own products an advantage is crucial to giving small alternative platforms a fighting chance.”

Spearheaded in the Senate by the bipartisan duo of Democrat Amy Klobuchar and Republican Chuck Grassley, AICO’s bipartisan fanfare extends well beyond the Hill. Indeed, polling has consistently found that both Democratic and Republican voters want to make AICO the law of the land.

However, with time running out until the midterms, it is urgent that Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi make passing these bipartisan bills a top priority. While Democratic leadership has a laundry list of pressing policy items to tackle before November, passing AICO and OAMA stands as possibly the last opportunity to rein in Big Tech in the near-future. Prioritizing the passage of these popular bills and giving Biden the chance to sign them will give the White House a key bipartisan victory before voters go to the polls this November.

Last year, President Joe Biden acknowledged the threat of monopoly power, stating that ‘excessive market concentration threatens basic economic liberties.’

While these bills have won support from many congressional Republicans, the GOP’s party leadership remains hostile to the legislation. Rep. Jim Jordan, who would chair the House Judiciary Committee if the party takes back the chamber, has been vociferous in his opposition to the antitrust bills. Jordan claims holding Big Tech accountable constitutes “big tech and big government now marrying up and working together.” This isn’t just absurd, it insults the intelligence of the very people who voted him in in the first place.

Polling by Data for Progress (DFP) taken earlier this year found that voters in Ohio’s 4th district, which Jordan represents, widely support AICO across party lines. In a district where Donald Trump has a 66 percent approval rating, 58 percent of voters polled were found to support AICO. The poll also found that 87 percent of the district’s Democrats and 85 percent of its Republicans favored strengthening laws on Big Tech to “guarantee public safety [and] keep markets competitive.” (Disclosure: I am an affiliated researcher with Data for Progress, though I had no involvement in any of the polling referenced, and this article expresses my views alone.)

In an effort to “prove” that votes don’t care about antitrust, the Google-funded Taxpayers Protection Alliance (TPA) conducted polling that actually found wide support for antitrust reform in nine key states. Voters were found to support Big Tech antitrust efforts overall by a 68 percent to 19 percent margin, with majority support in conservative states like South Carolina, West Virginia, and Nebraska.

In the heartland state of Iowa—where AICO lead sponsor Grassley is one of two representatives in the Senate—DFP polling found that voters across party lines support AICO by a massive 74 percent to 10 percent margin. Incredibly, 87 percent of the state’s Republicans said they support the bill to rein in Big Tech companies. Given Iowa’s shift rightward in recent years, Democrats should take note that 87 percent of Republicans said they support the progressive antitrust bill. TPA polling in Iowa found similarly wide support for Big Tech antitrust efforts.

Once the world leader in technological innovation, California’s tech industry has stagnated, with promising startups often falling victim to Big Tech’s kill-and-acquire strategy. While groups like the California Chamber of Commerce feign concern that Silicon Valley will be harmed by Big Tech antitrust efforts, this couldn’t be any further from the truth. Cutting-edge innovation in tech can only thrive if upstart companies aren’t under threat of killer acquisitions by tech giants looking to curb potential competition.

Polling in California by DFP found that 74 percent of Golden State voters support AICO, while 69 percent support the OAMA bill. In California’s 19th district, located in the heart of Silicon Valley, 67 percent of voters agreed that the economic power wielded by Big Tech is concerning. Voters in the district were found to support passing AICO by a 58 percent to 12 percent margin, a triumphant margin for antitrust right in Google and Apple’s backyard.

Last year, President Joe Biden acknowledged the threat of monopoly power, stating that “excessive market concentration threatens basic economic liberties.” On his end, Biden has appointed strong antitrust proponents to key regulatory offices and re-affirmed his support for reining in Big Tech at the 2022 State of the Union.

Democratic leadership in Congress must ensure that AICO and OAMA get across the finish line so that Biden can make good on his pledge to cut Big Tech down to size.

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